YAKIMA - It was a tale of two halves last night, Tuesday, as the Mabton Vikings struggled with poor shooting against the Riverside Christian Crusaders, but Jesus Huecias proved to be the hero for the Vikings as he nailed a jump shot at the buzzer to give Mabton a 40-38 non-league win over the Crusaders.
Mabton started out strong enough, dominating in the first quarter and building a 17-8 lead. The Vikings had limited the Crusaders to just five first-quarter points until Riverside's Dusty Bender hit a three-point shot at the end of the quarter.
Mabton Coach Brock Ledgerwood said the Vikings were able to extend their lead in the second quarter by getting to the free throw line. Mabton was also able to get the ball inside to Lorenzo Sanchez and Carmen Johnson. The Vikings led 25-14 at the half.
To start the third quarter, Ledgerwood said his team came out flat. The Crusaders took advantage of the lull by outscoring the Vikings 13-7 in the third quarter. Riverside continued to battle in the fourth quarter and finally took the lead for the first time since the first quarter with three minutes to play.
The final two minutes saw both teams exchange turnovers and points and with 12 seconds left the score was tied at 38.
Ledgerwood said his team inbounded the ball to Huecias who was able to penetrate the paint and hit a game-winning jump shot at the buzzer.
"Although we feel that we should have continued with another solid second half, we found a way to win and Chuy (Huecias) hit a huge shot to lift us to the win," Ledgerwood said. "We have to find a way to keep our intensity and stop runs before our opponent gets back into the game."
Mabton was led by Josh Sanchez with nine points and five rebounds, and Carmen Johnson, who scored nine points and grabbed five rebounds. Kristian Carrasco added seven points for the Vikings and teammate Josh Strickland had four points.
Lorenzo Sanchez, Joel Gutierrez and Roman Chavez each finished with three points for Mabton. Huecias, the hero of last night's game, scored his only points at the final buzzer.
Riverside was led by Derek Byrne with 11 points and Nate Vanwinen with eight points.
Offensively, it was a sloppy game for the Vikings. Mabton committed 22 turnovers in the contest, compared with 14 for Riverside. The Vikings did pull down more boards than the Crusaders, outrebounding them 36 to 25.
"Now that we got our first win we have to get back to work and get better at the small parts of the game such as taking care of the ball and building chemistry," Ledgerwood said. "We are off to a good start, but it's a long road to get to where we want to be. I believe our kids are up to the challenge."
Mabton (1-2) will travel to Naches on Friday, Dec. 10, to play the Rangers at 7:30 p.m.